In a sense, these three members of my family converged atGettysburg, and there was another kind of convergence by way of marriages. In other senses, they converged and are now convergingin me.
My great-grandfather Elvin Hill, it appears, was involved in one of the more famous events at Gettysburg, the charge of the FirstMinnesota regiment ordered by General Winfield Hancock on abrigade of Alabamians, which resulted in the largest percentage of casualties suffered by any unit of comparable size during the CivilWar, and indeed in any war. My great-uncle Tully McCrea was amember of an artillery battery notably involved in the repulse of whatis known as Pickett’s Charge. This action is sometimes said to havebeen a turning point of the Civil War, one of the keys of a turn fromSouthern to Northern dominance. My grandfather Charles Fisher waswounded twice in the war, once at Second Bull Run (Manassas), andagain at Gettysburg. At Bull Run, he was also captured and spentsome time in the Libby Prison. He was paroled in time to take part inthe Battle of Gettysburg, and was again captured, on the first day,but this time managed to get fairly quickly back to the Union lines.
In what follows, the parts in bold-face type (other than headings)are direct quotations, identified with authors’ names, which can betaken as references to the bibliography at the end of the work. I havechosen to quote copiously the words of actual participants in theevents described, and also the words of some early and, occasionally,current historians. Sometimes quotations are altered slightly topromote an easier flow of words. Parts of what is being quoted areoften omitted, as signaled by the usual dots. Hopefully, intendedmeanings are not distorted. Often enough, I think, intendedmeanings have been emphasized by the omissions. For some events,I quote several different descriptions by people who were involved orcommented on them. This gives views of these events from differentperspectives; for example, those of officers, from lieutenants togenerals, and of men from the ranks, from privates to sergeants, aswell as of a few civilians.
1. Great-grandfather Elvin ‘Gil’ Hill
Compared to the untold myriads of human beings who have lived
and died, the number of biographies, of epitaphs, of bare mentioneven,
in lists or catalogues, is trifling, and yet each one of thecountless
and unnoted millions had his trials and sorrows and joys,his virtues and his crimes, his soul history, deeply interesting if truly narrated and rightly considered. But we can only deal with what wehave, and from what we possess must infer the rest, for that alone is permitted to us.
Henry Cabot Lodge (loc. cit., 1915).